Austin Reallocates Police Funding to Homeless Housing and Services

The city is using the redistributed money to purchase hotels for permanent housing and provide supportive services.

1 minute read

February 8, 2021, 7:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Sixth Street, Austin

Juli Scalzi / Shutterstock

Austin has purchased the first of what the city council hopes will be many hotels to be used as permanent housing for people who were previously unhoused, reports Alissa Walker for Curbed. The $6.5 million in funding for the project comes as part of a $20 million package that was recently redistributed from Austin's police budget as part of an experiment in reallocating police funding to social services.

"In addition to funding housing, including a new shelter to protect families facing domestic violence, the reconfigured budget proposes a plan to replace police officers with social workers to respond to nonviolent 911 calls, meaning the people who are the first point of contact for unhoused residents will be armed with mental-health training and access to shelter beds instead of guns," writes Walker. Councilmember Greg Casar emphasized the link between homelessness and police funding, citing the ineffectiveness of criminalizing the unhoused instead of funding supportive programs. "We know that policing and jails doesn’t solve homelessness. Housing does," he said.

Opponents of the plan are fighting back with a ban on public camping likely headed to the next state ballot and threats of a statewide anti-camping ordinance from Texas Governor Greg Abbott. If passed, such legislation would make life even more difficult for people experiencing homelessness.

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